Raunculus about to flower

Planted the ranunculus a tad late this year, as a first year trial. Surprised myself at actually getting them to grow, as they can be awkward little things. Still far too many trays of sprouted corns so will push of of those into some of my raised beds. Very pleased that the plants are finally putting out some stems whch are about to burst into flower.

Cosmos coming along as we hit mid May

A cloudy day gives me a day off watering duty. Flowering is coming in thick and fast. Whats interesting (and probably expected) if the traditional and bigger cultivars take a lot longer to come into flower, and the newer, ‘more fussy’ (not a technical term), flower that much earlier. So far we have Kiiro, Xsenia, Dward Purple Picotee, Sweet Kisses, only one Purity, Datdream, Rubenza, Capriola, Apricotta, and Pink Mosaic in flower.

Polytunnel one full of the potted on ones in their 1.5 litres pots, and poltunnel 2 has the terracotta pots that may go to Hampton Court.

So with seven weeks to go, where am I? Well there is still all the display material for the stand to be done. You know… the stuff where the judges will knock you a mark off because of the font size 😂 (still not over it). I’m slightly worried about leaving the plants to be taken round the Chelsea Flower show by the RHS as I am very particular about watering them, so hope its not a red hot day back at home. Not committing to it.. but I do think with careful successional sowing, cosmos could be exhibited at Chelsea. I mean, I’ve not ruled it out… not just yet 😉.

Again, I think I can show you can grow plants that aren’t too shabby in peat fee compost, but I will write a bit more about that.

Final photo will be me on every sunny day from now on… but with two watering cans in hand, doling out that stored rainwater.

Cosmos keeping me busy during #nationalgardeningweek

Feeling slightly better with the growth rate of the cosmos. One plant in a long tom looks ludicrous currently, but some of the cultivars in question can be whoppers so its the right kind of pot just for one plant in terms of taking it to the flower show. There has been pinching out, cutting buds off, and plenty of watering during #NationalGardeningWeek

Feeling more at ease than last week. Just a bit mind you 😉

Though when the weathermen says “I don’t think there is any danger of a frost” I always think… yes….. very easy for you to say isn’t it! I will be judging that later on tonight. 😂

Not all none natives should be feared

None native cosmos bipinnatus

The United Kingdom is home to a rich diversity of flora, with many species of plants and trees found nowhere else in the world. However, climate change and human activities such as deforestation and urbanisation have put increasing pressure on the country’s native plant populations. One solution to this problem could well be the use of non-native cultivars, which can bring many benefits to the UK’s biodiversity and ecosystem resilience.

Non-native cultivars are plant species that have been introduced to the UK from other regions of the world. They may have been brought over intentionally for their ornamental or economic value, or they may have arrived accidentally through human transport. While non-native cultivars can sometimes become invasive and threaten native species, many can be used in a positive way to help support biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change. Take hollyhocks, a plant I know well. It has been in the UK for over 500 years, is non invasive, drought tolerant, loved by pollinators and historically has even been grown as a crop for its fibres to try to produce cloth.

One of the main benefits of non-native cultivars is their ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. As the UK’s climate changes, many native plants may struggle to cope with rising temperatures, drought, and other stressors. Non-native cultivars, on the other hand, may be better equipped to thrive in these conditions, as they have evolved to survive in different climates and environments. By considering the role non-native cultivars play in the UK, we can help to increase the resilience of our ecosystems and perhaps reduce the risk of biodiversity loss.

Of course, it’s important to note that not all non-native cultivars are created equal. Some can become invasive and outcompete native species, leading to a loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, with careful planning and management, non-native cultivars can be used in a sustainable and responsible way to support the UK’s biodiversity and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

As the UK continues to grapple with the impacts of climate change, non-native cultivars may play an increasingly important role in supporting our natural environments.

Cosmos sowing, germinating and potting on continuing apace!

The cosmos sowed at the end of Feb (2 seeds to a 7 cm pot) are now looking fairly robust and will soon be potted on to individual 1.5ltrs pots.

Once there, they will continue to grow, and be pinched out after 3 sets of true leaves have formed. I say that, but the reality is I probably won’t get round to them all.. but thats the plan.

So what are some of the issues in terms of growing cosmos. Well oversowing in a seed tray can be a pain. So if you get a pack of seeds the inclination is sometimes to sow them all far to closely which can be a real pain in terms of pricking Its why I either sow a couple in a small pot, or even 1 seed per seed tray cell as below. (Each seed is in its own small cell that makes it easy to punish out and pot on).

Now of course many people may be having issue in terms of getting seeds to germinate – not because its the viability of the seeds, but because of the compost they are using. Some will use a multipurpose which is fine (to an extent) however some can really be rich in terms of feed included which isnt ideal for germinating seeds in my experience.

Then there is the different that will have to be faced when using peat free. Now for me, not all peat free composts are appropriate for growing seeds in. In fact some, for me, will lead to failure.

I can only speak for what I use and what works for the plants I grow. I use Melcourt Sylvagrow, and sometimes the version with added John Innes.

What every grower may have to learn, and learn is the right word, is how to grow with what is a possibly a new growing medium. This includes your watering regime. You can often overwater peat free as often it doesn’t look wet, but is, This can lead to seeds rotting.. and you then thing the seeds are at fault, but its your watering regime.

When sow seeds, I don’t have to continually water them in order to get germination on the whole. Sometimes “too much love” ends up killing what you are wanting to grow. So just pushing your finger in is often a good test as to how wet your compost is.

Moving forward, watering with peat free (or certainly the versions I use) takes place more often but you often aren’t watering as much in each session. Thats because peat free often cant hold as much water.. but again it depends on the type of growing medium you are using.

Hopefully this provides a few pointers , but feel free to comment below, and obviously check out our little seed shop https://britishcosmos.sumupstore.com

Does how plants are judged at flower shows need to change?

One thing that has always intrigued me about flower shows is judging. Some say you will never understand it and it can be very subjective so if you don’t want to be judged, don’t put yourself forward. I think that element is probably true.

The part that really does intrigue me, and I don’t think I have ever had an answer is how, with all the talk abut being environmentally aware, and being more sustainable, judging really (currently) doesn’t seem to care about that.

What do I mean? Well I guess I would explain it as follows. Currently I could take plants, grown in peat, pumped up with feed like an athlete on steroids, grown out of season with all the energy that requires, using gallons of tap water, or even bought in from hundreds of miles away, then spray them all with fungicides or bee killing pesticides, but as long as they then look amazing walk away with a gold medal……. Versus maybe growing them more sustainably, using peat free,  not using pesticides, having a more natural plant but perhaps and not having it acknowledged that growing that way can produce a different looking but also beautiful plant.

We know peat will be going from show (but it hasn’t yet). But at the same time I don’t see any reward for growing sustainably in terms of how plants are judged, and wondered whether this now needs to change?

I’d love to know your views.

Ranunculus coming along

These can be awkward little blighters, but they are coming along nicely. Great root formation (well I think so). I guess it shows you that decent plants can be grown in peat free compost.

Next step is to get them into their silver planters and hopefully get them to flower 🤞🏻

First public session of the Lords Horticulture committee

Committee in session

Today was the first public session of the House of Lords committee looking into horticulture. Witnesses were:- Tessa Jones, Director of Agri-Food Chain, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Gill Laishley, Deputy Director of Farming & Primary Processing, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Tim Mordan, Deputy Director of Innovation, Productivity and Science, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

So what were my takes from the session. Straight away for me it became apparent just how wide the term ‘horticulture’ is used for, and how for different people it means very different things. Much as the session was spent talking about farming. To me the amateur gardener thats agriculture isn’t it? But no… horticulture can include growing acres of strawberries under glass for example. So when looking at benefits to mental health as an example, whilst its was rightly pointed out that the benefits of horticulture are clear (and to an extent thats true), it really depends what you mean. Yes being in green spaces, looking and enjoying flowers is of course beneficial. Working in the driving rain, picking fruit, feeling cold and miserable maybe less so. So again… it comes back to what is horticulture.

Issues of funding were discussed. So did horticulture has a fair crack of the whip in access to public funds. Well maybe if we take what could be described as industrial horticulture. But if its smaller scale private horticulture (lets say National Plant Collections given they are close to my heart) I wouldn’t think DEFRA, or the Department of Health and Social Care would know (why should they) my plant collection existed… so there would be no way it could be included in terms of getting public money for public good.

I’m really pleased the committee is looking into so many important areas. I am sure its members will have so so much to consider. I certainly don’t envy writing up a report given it has to cover so much ground. I will definitely be submitting some evidence on areas I think are important and perhaps haven’t been considered yet.